“I want to go to college as far away as possible.”
This is what I used to say to my parents persistently as I began the college search nearly five years ago. Sitting in my bedroom in Pennsylvania, I would research schools in California, Florida and even Europe to see just how far away I could get from my home.
This wasn’t because I didn’t get along with my parents or didn’t appreciate the home I had, but because I viewed distance as synonymous with independence.
Growing up with three siblings who were much older and closer in age to each other, I felt that I had five parents at times, rather than two. I often saw my older brother and sisters as adults growing up, and I knew I would always be the baby of the family.
I watched them move on to college and slowly began to only see them on holidays. I then watched them graduate college and move on with their lives in California and North Carolina. The days I got to see them dwindled and a lot of my time was spent with just my parents.
Watching my sibling’s success and independence made me anxious about what I would become, and whether I could instantly be as independent as they were. Going to school far away seemed like the biggest step I could take to immediately kick-start this process.
College applications rolled out and I had largely overlooked Lehigh because it was just a mere hour away from my hometown of Berwyn, Pennsylvania.
Lucky for me, my mother convinced me to apply the night before the application closed. To this day, I’m thankful I listened to her realistic advice and gave myself a chance at experiencing this amazing school.
As most college seniors would agree, the college decision process is long and trying. When it came down to it, Lehigh was the best option for me at the end of the day — even if I didn’t want to believe that.
With some reluctance I officially committed to the university and shut the door on ever becoming independent from my parents. I thought it would be impossible, being so close to home.
During my first semester, my parents told me to only communicate with them once every two weeks, or only if I had to. At the time this seemed like the easiest thing to do. I was trying to distance myself from my parents and my high school habits and jump to adulthood all in one semester.
Even though I acted like this was what I wanted, on the inside, I missed the comfort of my parents. I had forgotten the little things that they did on an everyday basis and this created a sort of emptiness at college when they were taken away.
After my first semester, I voluntarily called my parents once a week and found myself texting them almost everyday. I realized I wanted to share my accomplishments with them, and just because they were close in distance did not mean that they were part of my personal college experience.
Since I shifted my mindset, my relationship with my parents has flourished over the last three years. In fact, it has become more of a friendship than a parent-child relationship.
I have found a new appreciation for my first semester of college, and never again would I take my parents for granted. I recognize that I am incredibly blessed to have parents who want to see me succeed, and it took time to realize that my independence and success has nothing to do with my geographical separation from them.